MLB Weekend Update: AL East Heats Up (Again)

HOUSTON: Pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays congratulates catcher Kelly Shoppach #10 after his sixth complete game of the season as they defeated the Houston Astros 5-1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Before we get to the weekend's top stories, a few of the scores: 5-4, 8-2 and -- in a key game -- 11-6.

Back to normal in American League East
For a moment, it looked like the Red Sox and Yankees would just run away with the two tournament berths available to American League teams, and of course they still might. Their run differentials certainly argue for that conclusion. But the Rays, after looking like they might live up to their preseason billing as also-rans, as won eight of 10 and now trail the first-place Yankees by only two lengths. Never count out a team with a true Legend. Never.

The Giants are still amazing
Even after winning five straight -- including their weekend sweep of the Indians -- the Giants have still been outscored by four runs this season. They're also in first place, 1-1/2 games ahead of the Diamondbacks, thanks to a 44-34 that includes a phenomenal 22-11 mark in one-run games.

Young Davey Johnson back in the dugout
And we know he's young because he's still called Davey, right? Actually, Johnson's 68, which is okay because 68 is apparently the new 48 when it comes to managing in the majors. Is hiring Johnson just a short-term move, though? Is he merely a caretaker until a younger man can be hired after the season? I tend to think so. For one thing, Johnson's 68. For another, it's been my assumption that Johnson hasn't managed since 2000 because he hasn't wanted to manage. That he would rather spend more time fishing and less time answering stupid questions.

Rays' Shields just keeps pitching big ones
When I saw that Roy Halladay pitched his National League-leading fifth complete game Sunday, I just sort of assumed that Halladay also leads the majors in that category in both 2009 and '10.

Nope. The amazing Big Game James Shields has tossed six complete games, including one against the Astros Friday night. All this from a pitcher who entered this season with five career complete games, including none at all in 2009 or '10. Shields might not win a Cy Young Award -- he's got serious competition in Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver -- but if he keeps pitching like this he should win something.

Pirates just keep on rolling
By taking two of three from the Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates stayed above .500 (39-38) and they're 35-0 when they lead after eight innings, thanks largely to closer Joel Hanrahan, who converted 22 of 22 save opportunities this season. The Pirates, of course, hasn't enjoyed a winning season since 1992 (and haven't come reasonably close since 1999). Is this the year, finally? It's obviously too early to say. The Bucs have been outscored, and it's not at all obvious that their overachieving pitchers aren't just rank overachievers. Still, it must be a heady time to be a Pirates fan, and in love.

Good morning, and watch out.

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